It’s unlikely the humble Terry Francona would gloat, though he easily could back in Philadelphia.
Making his return to the only other city in which he’s been a big-league manager, Francona has his Boston Red Sox rolling as the World Series champions go to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game set with the Phillies.
“They love me there,” Francona joked when asked about going back to Philadelphia for the first time since the Phillies fired him following the 2000 season.
He went 65-97 that year and the team never finished above .500 in his four seasons with Philadelphia. Francona did not get another managerial position until Boston hired him before last season, and he helped the Red Sox win their first championship since 1918.
Boston will get a small reminder of that run to the title in the opener of this series with Philadelphia sending Jon Lieber to the hill. Lieber threw seven-plus innings to lead the Yankees to a 3-1 win in Game 2 of the AL championship series, but Curt Schilling and the Red Sox beat Lieber in Game 6 en route to completing their comeback from a 3-0 series deficit.
While Schilling (ankle) will be unavailable to face his former team, Tim Wakefield will oppose Lieber on Friday as he tries to keep Boston’s momentum going.
During the Red Sox’s current stretch that includes nine wins in 10 games, Wakefield has had two very solid performances. He’s given up one run and 11 hits in 14 innings in his last two starts after losing his previous five outings.
Boston won its fourth in a row Wednesday, beating Cleveland 5-4 on Edgar Renteria’s RBI double in the ninth inning. The Red Sox, who trailed 4-2 in the eighth, notched their 20th come-from-behind win of the season.
“We play calm out there,” Johnny Damon said. “We’ve been through pressure before. We’ve dealt with it. We don’t let too much bother us.”
Damon, third in the AL with a .338 batting average, should be back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench Wednesday due to a sore shoulder and having an off day Thursday.
“I’m a fast healer,” he said. “Two days for me is an eternity.”
While Boston is closing in on Baltimore for first place in the AL East, the Phillies are losing ground in the NL East. They have lost six of nine, including Thursday’s 4-3 defeat to the New York Mets, after a 12-1 homestand.
Abreu hasn’t homered in the last 10 games and hasn’t driven in a run in seven straight. Burrell, who hit .400 (18-for-45) with five homers and 13 RBIs on the homestand, is 3-for-31 (.097) with two RBIs in his last eight games.